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Who knew the Gods were so petty?


Yesterday, I was listening to lesson 46 of a CD lecture series on Ancient Rome … Ok. Let's get this over with so you can read and react to the actual point of this blog rather than snark about what kind of middle age woman would spend weeks learning about the Second Triumvirate or Pompey’s return from the East.

And no, Lori, I DO NOT have a thing for oiled up gladiators. I happen to be a Diligent Observer of Researchable Knowledge, or DORK okay? Geez! I majored in history and not just for the money.

So anyway, lesson 46 is about Roman Paganism. What I found most interesting was not the laundry list of big assignment Gods the Romans arrogated from the Greeks like Jupiter nee Zeus, God of sky and air, or Mars nee Ares, God of war, or Venus, nee Aphrodite, Goddess of sex and beauty. Instead, it was the litany of gods and goddesses charged with representing, controlling and interceding in the mundane world of objects and situations that people run into every day. It was like there’s a god for pesky stains that you can’t get out of T-shirts.

For example, there is a god (actually, four gods) who control the doorway and events pertaining to thresholds into homes and who goes through them. There is a god who controls each waterway and/or stream. Please don't let my ship sink; please don't let my disappointing son, Antonius, sit on another crab. Another god oversees the local public bath. Goddess, please distract Livia and Julia from noticing how much weight I have gained or, if too late, perhaps you could intervene in their ability to speak of it to Cassia. Who knew the Gods could be so damn mundane?

How interesting! Instead of -- as the succeeding Christians did -- rolling the whole of experience into one God and hoping He is somehow listening and helping you with just the right suit for your job interview while a category 4 hurricane is simultaneously hitting the Texas coastline, you would have a wardrobe deity with no other responsibility than to help or not help based on the respect and veneration you have shown on that neat new blouse. Washing machine on the fritz? Here are some cookies I have baked and left in the laundry room for the God of Maytag Repairmen. I’m not kidding, it’s that specific.

I’m no expert, mind you, but I’d expect my deities to be just a little bit more … well … deity-like. I mean, dirty laundry is certainly a problem for us mere mortals, but shouldn’t the Gods be concerned with larger issues? Things like life and death … and the nature of the universe? I don’t really need a god to sort out my missing socks from the dryer and shed light on how that dust bunny got under the bed.

But maybe the Romans knew something we don’t. Perhaps it was comforting in old Rome to know that the Gods were not only worried about national borders and the meaning of life, but also where that damn lost sock went. After all, it’s the mundane details of daily life that consumes much of our existence. Right? I’ve decided that I really like this idea. Maybe our modern gods could take a cue from the Romans. Like, hey supreme deity … can you restore my internet connection? Or, can I jump ahead nine places in the Starbucks line?

Well, maybe things haven’t really changed that much since ancient Rome. The elders are still complaining about today’s youth and the seers are still looking for wisdom from the Gods. The more things change, the more they stay the same. (I don’t really have to cite my source here, right?)

So, hail to the mundane. My tape series is almost two months overdue and the Goddess of my local library is most likely not pleased. Petty? Yes. But I guess it’s to be expected...

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